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Rangers Join Unified Command In Successful SAR

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Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 09, 2010 07:18PM
RECENT RESCUES

10-6-10 Missing Person Search - Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Canyon

On October 6, 2010 Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue Office established a unified command structure with the Mono County Sheriff’s Office for an overdue backpacker search in Yosemite National Park and Mono County. The subject, a 70 year old male from California was on a 5 night one-way hike from Virginia Lakes Trailhead to Saddlebag Lake. He was due out on October 6 at noon, but did not arrive. Much of the intended route for the overdue subject was in the park. However, the point last seen, and entry and exit points were located in Mono County, creating a unified command between the two jurisdictions.

Two Tuolumne rangers arrived at the Lee Vining Command Post the evening of October 6 to fill command staff positions. Mono County Search and Rescue had begun a hasty search that evening with three field teams in the Virginia Lakes and Saddlebag Lake area with no success. The returning field teams reported very difficult conditions with cold temperatures and drifts of snow up to two feet deep. The next morning, the search was expanded with more command staff positions, 7 field teams, 2 dog teams, and 2 helicopters.

The investigators on the case reported that Mr. Alden had completed similar trips in that area 25-30 times before with his wife. It was the first time Mr. Alden had done this trip alone. Interestingly, last year the couple did the same trip and encountered bad weather. They were unable to cross over Secret Pass leading to Saddlebag Lake. They aborted the trip and hiked out to Tuolumne Meadows.

During troop insertions, Helicopter 551 noticed tracks leading away from two circles stamped in the snow and an arrow pointing towards the southwest and Virginia Canyon. Field teams and the helicopters were shifted to that area. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Alden was found at 1420 hours by a field team near Summit Lake. He was 26 hours overdue at that point. He was moving slowly toward Virginia Lakes Trailhead. He was tired and cold, but otherwise in good condition. He was extracted to Tuolumne Meadows by Helicopter 551 and reunited with his wife.

During the debrief, the subject reported that on Saturday, Oct 2 he was soaked from rain while hiking near McCabe Lakes. The next day it snowed 18 inches. He spent the next three nights at the same location attempting to dry his equipment. Due to the deep snow he decided to abort his attempt to cross Secret Pass (class 2-3 without snow) and return to Summit Lake via Virginia Canyon.

This search was the third major search in the Tuolumne Sub District since the beginning of September.



http://friendsofyosar.org/rescues/rescues.html
avatar Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 10, 2010 06:31AM
I presume Secret Pass is the one between Upper McCabe Lake and Steelhead Lake? It's not named on my maps. I was not aware it even had a name.
Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 10, 2010 06:38AM
Thanks for posting. Do people read the weather report? Or is it fine to attempt such a trip in bad weather?
Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 12, 2010 07:49AM
Weather forecasts are often wrong, or change while you are out there for more than three days. It's happened to me.
avatar Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 10, 2010 08:47AM
I wish the yosar site would detail more of these rescues. You can learn things from them.
I quit looking at their site on account they detail so few...

Secret Pass.... yes, that's correct. The lake just e (nw of Steelhead) is called Secret Lake.
Most all of the passes have some name. The one from Upper McCabe to Roosevelt is
called "Don't be a Smart Pass".

hotrod, Mike and I both mentioned this... the weather report for Sat and Sun was 30% chance
of intermittent thundershowers. At least that is what I saw just before I left Sat. morning at
5am. It was suppose to be beautiful come Monday. I have no idea where this baby came
from. Maybe we missed something. Regardless, you can go anytime... you just have
to be prepared. Big problem tho is that it is possible to dump 4ft. of snow... and if you don't
have snow shoes... you are probably stuck. 2ft-3ft... pain in the butt... but you could get out...
difficult... but doable imo. Even new snow 4ft+ with shoes is not easy.
Long trip this time of year is iffy. Really need to look at weather and it should really say 0%
for the duration.
Have fun. Be safe.
avatar Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 10, 2010 01:38PM
Quote
bill-e-g
The lake just e (nw of Steelhead) is called Secret Lake.

Just e (nw of Steelhead)? The lake just east of the pass and northwest of Steelhead is Shamrock Lake, above Hess Mine. Then there's Cascade Lake plus the two small ones between Cascade and Steelhead.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/10/2010 01:38PM by tomdisco.
avatar Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 10, 2010 05:25PM
This should make it clear:

avatar Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 11, 2010 01:57PM
O.K., my Natl Geo Trails Illustrated map # 308 has your Secret Lake marked as Shamrock Lake. Where your Natl Geo map shows Shamrock Lake, mine has marked as Twin Lakes. Your Natl Geo map makes more sense than my Natl Geo map! You would think the good folks at National Geographic could keep their own maps straight.
avatar Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 11, 2010 10:44PM
Quote
tomdisco
O.K., my Natl Geo Trails Illustrated map # 308 has your Secret Lake marked as Shamrock Lake. Where your Natl Geo map shows Shamrock Lake, mine has marked as Twin Lakes. Your Natl Geo map makes more sense than my Natl Geo map! You would think the good folks at National Geographic could keep their own maps straight.

Looked on their site. They screwed up #308. I don't have that one in paper form. The #206 of entire Yosemite is correct.
Re: Overdue hiker in Saddlebag Lake / Virginia Lake area found
October 10, 2010 05:53PM
Called off a second attempt on Banner Peak (via Ediza lake) last Saturday after a long session with the Mammoth Lakes Rangers on Friday. Though the forecast was 20% chance of T-Storms for Sat.-Sun., the radar looked much more menacing. The whole eastern side of the Sierra. According to them it was the remnant of a hurricane that caused all the landslides in Mexico the week before. Stayed there in the hostel friday night hoping Sat. might be clear since it was only 20% chance. Looked bad the next morning and getting worse, so I hit the road rather than chance it. By the time I got to Yosemite's east gate I was getting pummeled with hail. It got better though, and I decided to stay at Porcupine Flat. The eternal optimist, I figured it might clear up by Sun. morning and I'd at least get to dayhike Unicorn Peak. Well, I woke up in a puddle. Still hung around the empty Olmstead Point parking lot convinced that the fog (couldn't see past the nearest tree) would burn off as the morning wore on. Still no luck, but I did finish a Kurt Vonnegut novel I was reading (Cat's Cradle).
avatar Rangers Join Unified Command In Successful SAR
October 12, 2010 05:16PM
Yosemite National Park (CA)
Rangers Join Unified Command In Successful SAR

On October 6th, the park’s search and rescue office received a request from the Mono County Sheriff’s Office for assistance in a search for an overdue backpacker. Thomas Alden, 70, of Truckee, California, was on a five-night, one-way hike from the Virginia Lakes trailhead to Saddlebag Lake. He was due out at noon on October 6th but failed to arrive. The Sierra Nevada mountain range experienced a severe multi-day storm on October 3rd that brought winter conditions and road closures to the high country, heightening the urgency of the search for this solo traveler. Much of the Alden’s intended route was in the park, but the point last seen and the entry and exit points were located in Mono County, creating a unified command opportunity. Yosemite rangers arrived at the unified command post on the evening of October 6th to fill command staff positions. Mono County Search and Rescue had undertaken a hasty search that evening with three field teams, but with no success – the returning field teams reported very difficult conditions with cold temperatures and drifts of snow up to two feet deep. The next morning, the search was expanded with more command staff positions, seven field teams, two dog teams, and two helicopters. During team insertions, observers in the park’s helicopter noticed tracks leading away from two circles stamped in the snow and an arrow pointing towards the southwest and Virginia Canyon. Field teams and the helicopters were shifted to that area. Shortly thereafter, Alden was found by a field team near Summit Lake inside the park. He was 26 hours overdue at that point and moving slowly toward the Virginia Lakes trailhead. He was tired and cold, but otherwise in good condition. He was extracted by helicopter, flown to Tuolumne Meadows, and reunited with his wife. This search was the third major search in the Tuolumne Subdistrict since the beginning of September. Unified incident commanders were Yosemite ranger Jason Ramsdell and Pete DeGeorge of the Mono County Sheriff’s Office.
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